Copy Board Game Rules Without Breaking the Law: Legal Tips
By Tom Seest
At BestBoardGameNews, we help people who love board games by collating information and news about board games.
Board games are text-heavy, and they often contain original works of authorship, literary works, or trademarks. These can all be protected under the copyright laws in some countries. Here are some ways to protect your ideas. If you’re not sure if your game rules are protected, consider registering a poor man’s copyright. This method involves mailing yourself a copy of your idea but leaving it unopened in order to prove that you’re the author of the idea.
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Whether or not your board game has copyright protection is dependent on where you live. If it is in the US, copyright registration is relatively easy and inexpensive. However, if it is in Canada or other countries, you may have to pay around $85 or more to register the copyright. Once registered, a copy of the game can be legally reproduced, but only for a limited period.
Board games can be copyrighted if they use text. A game may also be protected if it contains brand names or slogans. In addition, a board game may fall under a patent. A patent is an important asset in protecting copyrighted content, and it can protect the board game you create.
If you’re worried that your game might be copyrighted, read up on the law. It seems that the courts are beginning to recognize the importance of copyright protection in the board game industry. A few years ago, a game called Bang! was the subject of a two-year copyright infringement lawsuit. In that case, the creators of the game filed suit against the game’s US distributor, ZiKo Games, LLC, for copyright violations.
While patent protection for board games is limited, it is still a good idea to do a patentability search on your game. Search the web for “board games” to find examples of similar games. The aim is to find something that sets your game apart from the rest. Board game patents are generally granted for 15 years, but they rarely last very long.
Besides text, board games may also contain artwork. This includes cards, miniatures, and illustrations in an instruction booklet. Artwork and text in board games are also protected under copyright. However, other elements of the game are not protected.
If you’ve written a board game rule, you need to register it with the appropriate copyright authority. You can do this for around $35-$55, depending on the type of board game rules and the country where you live. In the UK, copyright applies automatically to any created work, and it grants you the right to sue anyone who uses your work without permission. The copyright of a board game typically lasts for 70 years after the death of the author.
Board game rules are a common example of works that are protected by copyrights. These works include board game rules, board game instructions, and even tabletop games with extensive text. Hasbro, the company that owns the D&D franchise, has registered copyrights on hundreds of materials related to the game. However, the underlying rules of these games are not copyrighted. The scenes-a-faire doctrine generally does not protect standard aspects of a work, which makes it unprotectable.
The laws surrounding copyrighting for board games are very complicated. In the US, copyright applies to original works of authorship and can protect items such as rules and instructions for board games. It also covers images found in board game designs, such as a game board and its pieces. It is important to note that the laws for copyright protection for board game rules differ from those for other kinds of IP protection.
A game’s name, slogans, and logos are generally not protected by copyright. However, short phrases can be trademarks. This means that if you create a game using a similar name, there is a possibility that someone else will use the name, but there is no guarantee of infringement. However, in some cases, copyright protection isn’t enough. You could face legal problems if you copy the game’s name or logo without permission.
Trademark protection for board game rules depends on whether the game has been commercially produced and sold for a certain period of time. To protect your trademark, you need to file a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The application will need to contain details regarding the game and its use. It will also need to include evidence of commercial use.
If you are trying to copy a board game, copyright registration is the best option. Board games are generally protected if the artwork is original and covers the game’s rules. Similarly, music, video, and audio files can also be protected under copyright. However, this won’t protect the mechanics of a board game. A trademark won’t prevent the game from being copied, but it will prevent its competitors from using it in the same way.
Depending on the type of game, fair use of board game rules can be a useful defense for a content creator. For example, an artist can create a game that reinterprets the Settlers of Catan. The game can be used to promote a show or art exhibition. Researchers Sam Illingworth and Paul Wake have also explored using Catan to educate people about global warming. In an attempt to do this, they created a “science-based” version of the game that incorporates scientific concepts. Even a short film like “The Lord of Catan” has incorporated the board game’s fair-use policy to create a story about a husband-and-wife rivalry over the game.
Another example of fair use is a homecoming float. The drum major leading the parade may dress as the top-hatted man in the Monopoly game. Similarly, a float decorated with gingerbread men dressed as football players might be allowed. The goalpost, of course, would be painted in red and white peppermint stripes, and a banner on the side could read, “It is impossible to win at football.” The changes would be enough to make the game legal.
Be sure to read our other related stories at BestBoardGameNews to learn more about board games.